By: Sean Thomson (DJ Swanky) on September 8th, 2016
In the past few years Atlanta bred producer heRobust has quickly transformed from bedroom beat maker to selling out shows nationwide. With an arsenal of forward-thinking tracks and genre defying DJ skills, it’s no wonder he’s garnered support from industry legends such as Diplo, Bassnectar and DJ Shadow. His most recent EP I’m Aloud was released on Mad Decent and was driven by popular bangers such as “Skurt Reynolds” and “Dirty Work.” I had a chance to catch up with heRobust before his show at Mad Decent Block Party in Eugene, and we talked about his early influence, creative process and what lies ahead.
Sean: Tell us a little bit about more about where you’re from and how you got started?
HeRobust: I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia; that’s where a lot of hip-hop comes from especially the dirty south sound that is kind of taking over the radio right now. I never wanted to rap myself; so I became a hip-hop producer for all of my friends that did rap. But at a certain point, I started to listening to electronic music and realized how much more room there was for creativity. For me it was an attractive genre to work with because I could finally produce music that wasn’t as based on the vocals.
S: Any specific artists either way back or today that you’ve drawn a lot of influence from?
H: As far as electronic music goes early on I was really inspired by artists like Squarepusher and Aphex Twins… Like the early days of electronic music before “EDM” necessarily. But later on after dubstep happened to America… then trap happened to America. Not trap rap but “EDM” trap, and for anybody living in Atlanta when that trend popped off, it was like mother’s milk. Nobody did that stuff better than us because we invented it. So it was convenient that the trend sort of came to us, and that’s why so many Atlanta producers popped off at that time.
S: What can someone who is not familiar with heRobust expect during your shows?
H: If you like hip-hop you’re going to hear enough to curb that for yourself. As far as EDM goes, I am the one trying to play the weirdest of the heavy stuff. A lot of people go heavy, but I think that I hold a high priority to be original and just weird.
S: You’ve played some huge festivals this year (Paradiso, Hard Summer, etc.) Can you point to any one in particular as your favorite?
H: Tough question. Every festival and show is awesome for different reasons. Paradiso was great because the Gorge is just so beautiful and it’s an amazing venue to play. That crowd was really awesome too. Seattle has kind of become the bass capital as people say. So those crowds are really into the stuff I’m doing between trap and dub. Hard summer was great to be at because the line-up and whole experience was a nice blend EDM and hip-hop. Being a huge hip-hop fan, it was awesome playing there and meeting some amazing artists backstage.
S: How did you pull off that crew of special guests for Hard Summer?
H: Well when I saw that I was playing the closing spot at Hard…I knew that I had to pull out all the stops. So I hit up all my really close DJ friends in L.A. I ended up having Getter, 12th Planet and Protohype join me during my set. So for the last 30 minutes on stage it was just us having fun and I think more so than anything, if fans see you having fun that’s what they respond to most.
S: Being that you spend most of your time on the road…what is one thing that you must have with you on tour?
H: I travel pretty light, but the one thing I can say that has been surprisingly huge for me is a blindfold. A lot of times you play a show from 1:30-3:00 a.m., then people want to hang out after the show and take pictures or maybe a fan invites you go to an after party and before you know it… it’s 8 a.m., and you have to be at the airport again. So a lot of times the only sleep that you get is on the plane, and ever since I have gotten the blindfold it’s been super clutch. Highly recommended.
S: Since you’re known for such crazy and hectic music, tell us why you switched up your sound quite a bit with your new remix of “Broccoli?” Where did this newfound inspiration and style come from?
H: I made Broccoli around the time all of the events happened in Dallas. Usually my music is just like party music. It’s pretty abrasive and definitely aggressive. Creative…but still bangers, and when I sat in the studio that morning it just didn’t feel right to make another banger. Music is a form of expression and I just really felt like I wanted to make something happier and something that can be useful to people who we’re experiencing tough times. There are a lot of terrible things happening in the world, but one of the great things about music is that it can take you beyond that, and for a brief period of time it can make you feel better about those things
S: If you weren’t doing music right now what would you be doing instead?
H: Well I went to college (not for music) and studied biochemistry. I actually took my MCAT and was planning on going to medical school. I ended up choosing not to do that, but if I weren’t doing this I would be a doctor.
S: What lies in the future for you? Any new collaborations for us to look out for?
H: I’m working on a few collabs right now. The first one is with Loudpvck, and that’s going to be awesome. I’m working on anther collab with my good friend Snails. We’ve collabed before with our track “Pump This” and it was a really smooth process, so we decided to try another one. The last one would be with Trollphace. We haven’t made that much progress on it yet, but he is an artist whose sound and mine align really well, and we’re trying to blend the same influences together. So there is lots of new music in the works for the near future.
Catch HeRobust along with Dillon Francis, Keys N Krates and Tiesto at Mad Decent Block Party in Eugene on September 9th. He is guaranteed to throw down one of the heaviest sets you’ve ever heard and it’s show you won’t want to miss!